The Funeral of the Revolutionary Left

Miguel Díaz-Canel, Nicolás Maduro, Raúl Castro and Evo Morales, center stage, during the closing of the Sao Paulo Forum. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 June 2018 – The only thing missing was the funeral band accompanied by some black crepe and sobbing. The closing ceremony of the XXIV Sao Paulo Forum, on Tuesday in Havana, had all the traces of a funeral. You could almost hear the shovels of earth falling on the Latin American left which has not figured out how to disassociate itself from populism.

Far from the time when the region’s leftist leaders could fill a large stage, a few political survivors of that time, more closely related by their furious addiction to power than by the banner of social justice and the equitable distribution of wealth, met on the Island.

There was no lack, among the more than 600 guests, of disoriented people who still believe the propaganda that “the Island is a Utopia,” or who naively seek a space of fresh plurality in a meeting of this kind. False illusion. Created in the 90s at the initiative of Fidel Castro and Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, the Forum has never been a place for polyphony. continue reading

An indirect heir of those congresses organized by the Soviet Union, the scenography of the hammer and sickle is now hidden, the word communism eliminated from the talks, and Leninist allusions banished. The organizers may have dressed as progressives and sucked in the environmentalists and the indigenous and human rights movements, but the skeleton that supports them continues to mimic the constitution of the conferences staged by the USSR, because they try to pass off as spontaneous what is controlled down to the tiniest detail.

The latest edition has once again served as a gateway for those such as Nicolas Maduro who promote political intolerance, authoritarianism and ‘assistancialism’*. Others include Bolivian president Evo Morales, with his longing to serve in perpetuity, Raul Castro, the caudillo who inherited power through blood, and Cuba’s hand-picked president, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

For three days the participants furiously applauded the slogans, the rants, and even the false promises of “helping the disadvantaged” and “defending the truth,” which fell from the mouths of some of the most corrupt and predatory press on the continent. Every new phrase uttered was like an extreme unction intoned over their own doctrine.

Those who this week clothed themselves in the garments of social struggles and the demands of the most disadvantaged, have shown that once installed in their palaces their objective is to undermine republican institutions and dynamite the legal bases of democracy, actions that in the medium term end up inflicting extensive damage on the very social sectors they claim to represent.

The meeting also gave ample space to explaining the false and Manichean dilemma of choosing between a left that still speaks of revolutions and enemies, and neoliberalism, the right and the powerful. A false dichotomy that cloaks itself in calls to respect “the free determination of the people,” which in reality masks the demand for governmental impunity to sweep away citizens’ rights.

In the narrative thread that connected the sessions of the event, one strand insisted on the idea that the left is not finished in this part of the world and nor can one speak of a change in the ideological cycle. Such irony: those who contributed to the fall from grace of a political leaning presented themselves in Havana’s Palace of Conventions as doctors ready to auscultate their victim.

The populist champions who devoted a good part of the debates to naming the culprits, with index fingers pointing north, have handed their opponents the arguments to discredit an entire ideology on a silver platter. Experts, perhaps, in that fall from grace, they now appeal to each other to prop them up. “Either we unite, or we sink into the mud of the counterrevolution that they are trying to impose on us,” they concluded presciently.

That phrase also reveals the real reason for the event. A council to grease the wheels of the machinery that sparks actions, triggers protests, twists the frameworks of opinion and screams, from every lung, opposition to any speech that moves a single inch from the pre-established script. The Sao Paulo Forum functions like one of those meetings where the instructions for the ideological mafia are handed out and watches are synchronized to the time for the next ‘escrache’ or repudiation rally.

However, not everything from the recently concluded conclave should be discarded. Their sessions can act as a warning to the other left, democratic and less vociferous, that is rarely invited to this type of session, to publicly mark the distance and revitalize progressive ideas on the continent.

Latin America needs a left with renewed ideas, modern and responsible, not the conglomeration of unpresentable leaders who met in Havana. We need progressive parties that stop placing responsibilities elsewhere, fearing their own citizenship and fishing in the troubled waters of social conflicts. But for this to happen it is perhaps essential that the Sao Paulo Forum be dissolved.

That scenario is not so distant. To the extent that the governments that supported the Forum disappear from the executive map of the region, the meeting is stumbling back and forth among a few countries. The previous meeting was held in Nicaragua and this time it returned to the island, where it had already taken place in 1993 and 2001. It is easy to guess where the next encounters will be: Bolivia, Venezuela… or Mexico.

This time, and it came as no surprise, in their final declaration the forum members blamed United States “imperialism” for the revolts and social conflicts in the region, especially in Nicaragua, and called for the release of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. As expected, Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” received special support.

Something, however, cracked the mask and revealed the face hidden beneath the progressive disguise. On the same day the Forum ended in the Cuban capital, Daniel Ortega’s bombs fell on Masaya. Applause at the Havana Convention Center, and deadly explosions in the streets of Monimbó’s indigenous neighborhood. Laughter in one place, seven hours of terror in another. No attendee of the Sao Paulo Forum condemned the repression.

Translator’s note: Assistancialism is often defined as the creation of dependence through imposed aid. At least one scholar has defined it as “sit down and shut up money.”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

For a Press Without Silences or Omissions

Delegates from the province of Santiago de Cuba to the UPEC congress. (Sierra Maestra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14 July 2018 – One has been unemployed for two years, the other went to Miami and works for one of those media the Cuban government calls “imperialist press,” while the third writes ephemera for a local Cuban radio station and dreams of doing investigative reports. The three of them are journalists who are graduates of the island’s universities, and who have in common talent, a desire to do things, and professional frustration.

On Friday, the Congress of the Union of Journalists of Cuba (Upec) opened in Havana, bringing together 267 reporters, editors, photojournalists and news directors from all over the country. The meeting is being held amid expectations that range from one extreme to the other: from its final agreements can come a renewing impulse for the press or a straitjacket closer to the current exercise of the profession.

As in every Upec conclave, the demands to make journalism more incisive and closer to reality, to give newsrooms greater access to official data, as well as a broader editorial autonomy for the local press, are repeated on this occasion, along with the demand to modernize a sector plagued by excessive ideological controls and material instability.

The congress could not avoid offering an obligatory reverence when dedicating the meeting to Fidel Castro Ruz, a tenacious predator of press freedom and the main architect of the biggest problems that have plagued the guild in the last half century. But, in addition to these formalities moved more by opportunism than by faith, the meeting takes place in a complicated scenario. continue reading

The journalists gathered at the Palace of Conventions are exchanging opinions at a time when censorship against the ‘weekly packet’ is increasing, new obstacles are imposed on the presentation of artists in private venues and the harassment of independent reporters grows. All these events suggest that the ruling party wants to recover, through intimidation, the ground that has been lost in the distribution of content and news in recent years.

Upec is also meeting with president Miguel Díaz-Canel who, a few weeks after he took office, expressed ambivalent positions towards the media. On the one hand, he has called on journalists to address more deeply issues of Cuba’s reality and, on the other hand, he has emerged as an implacable keeper of the revolutionary press, demonizing and threatening to put an end to media outside the control of the Communist Party.

A new information policy could be enshrined at the meeting, at a point where the system, lacking results to show amid a deepening economic crisis, chooses to continue substituting headlines for realities, strengthening the media’s ideological component  and demanding a new commitment from professionals of the press to behave like “soldiers of the pen” rather than as keen informants.

For their part, journalists who work in official media are demanding better guarantees to do their work, but many of them start from the condition that other information sources, which they consider to be inadequately trained or ideologically objectionable, be eliminated.

On the other hand, a part of the union, not represented in the congress and made up of journalists who work for independent media or manage their own information spaces, has been asking for a Press Law for years that guarantees the exercise of the profession beyond the strict official frameworks. They seek legal recognition for their work so they do not end up with their bones in jail.

The latter are the great absentees of the meeting and the most affected by its possible results. What is anticipated from the meeting is an information policy that seeks to close ranks, lash out against those who maintain links with the independent press or who have dared to found blogs, newspapers and websites that touch on taboo topics such as violence in the streets, the excesses of State Security, administrative corruption or environmental pollution, among others.

In contrast, none of the attendees of the Upec congress has published anything about the most urgent problems that have shaken the reality of the island in recent weeks. Did even one of them ask Cubana de Aviación the details of the agreement that led the state airline to rent a plane from a Mexican company plagued by irregularities? Did they inquire about the thorny issue of compensation to the families of the victims?

Which of these delegates bid to sneak into the debates of the new Constitution of the Republic that take place behind closed doors? Or has published at least one line about the theft of thousands of dollars experienced by dozens of Cuban doctors in Venezuela? How many of them have asked for “authorization” from their editorial chief to report about the new migratory route that is taking thousands of Cubans to Chile, Uruguay and Brazil?

This Friday, when the calendar marked the 24th anniversary of the sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat, in which 37 people died, people who were trying to escape the country and among whom were children, which delegates to the congress thought of writing a note, promoting an investigation or picking up the phone and calling a ministry for answers? Did any of them ask for an interview with the new head of state to ask him what his program for the government consists of?

All these questions are answered with a single word: none. All the journalists gathered in the Palace of Conventions have concurred in the silence, looked the other way and tried not to inconvenience the powers that be. The motto of the congress states “The truth needs us,” they boast with a certain touch of superiority, when in reality they are the ones who need the truth and who should be running after the facts.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Ileana Hernandez is Arrested

Yoani Sanchez, Twitter, 13 July 2018 — Activist Iliana Hernandez arrested, director of the alternative program “Lente Cubano” (Cuban Lens). The dissident was taken to the Guanabacoa police station in Havana, where she is now, according to information received by 14ymedio from her mother.

See also: Two Activists File Complaint with the Attorney General over Travel Bans

New App ‘Donde Hay’ Inventories the Shortages

Cubans spend many hours each day searching for products in the undersupplied state markets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 7 July 2018 — In the shade of a busy Havana colonnade the young man pulls out his cellphone and types in the word “milk” in search of this basic food in the nearest markets. The new app for Android, “Dónde Hay” (Where is…?) promises to find any product in the network of retail stores. But this 28-year-old Cuban suspects it will not be as easy as a simple click.

With shortages worsening and the coming of summer – when the consumption of food and cleaning supplies increases – the use of this new tool created by the state-owned Grupo Empresarial Cimex has spread. The utility, launched in May, aroused hope among those who must devote several hours each day to searching for something in national markets.

Among the advantages of Dónde Hay worth mentioning is that you can access the service not only through a mobile phone connected to the Internet, but also from the mobile data network of the Telecommunications Company (Etecsa), the same infrastructure used to check Nauta email accounts on cell phones. So, its offline functionality helped many decided to try it. continue reading

“This is what we needed,” “the end of the walk from store to store,” “how great they’ve done something to make things easier for people,” “why did it take so long to create something like this and when they had already created so many political apps,” were some of the comments that could be heard on the streets of the Cuban capital any time the Dónde Hay app came up.

Even those who do not know much about technology, or those who have a clear animosity toward everything composed of circuits and microprocessors, were willing to learn the rudiments of how to use a touch screen to find everything from floor cloths, to fruit compote for children or disposable diapers intended for the elderly. But the illusions were short-lived.

In less than two months of use, the Cimex app has earned a lousy reputation for misinforming customers, insisting that some product is available in certain stores where it actually ran out days ago or, as expected, was shipwrecked in the intricacies of the corruption and diversion (i.e. theft) of resources that characterize the state retail network.

Magdalena, a 56-year-old pharmacist in Havana, showed up at the doors of the Ultra market, on Reina Street, after several days of looking for chicken breasts. Magdalena’s mother is convalescing and doctors have recommended eating mashed potatoes and lean meats. “It is difficult to maintain a supply because the chicken quarters they are selling have a lot of fat,” she laments.

With databases that can take up to 72 hours to update and a large network of corruption in retail stores, the application Dónde Hay can not guarantee customers accurate information about where products can be found. (14ymedio)

So Magdalena, helped by teenagers who live on the ground floor of her building, entered the word “breast” in the app. Afterwards, she had to choose between several variations, with or without skin, with or without bone, until she could focus more on the search and opt for packages of one kilogram, discarding the boxes with more portions. She was as happy as a clam.

“This is the one I want,” she pointed, looking through a small magnifying glass at the name of the product. Then, the magic was done and a list came up of all the places in the municipalities of Plaza, Playa, Centro Habana, Cerro and La Habana Vieja where they were selling the food that her mother needs. Even so, Magdalena ran into three problems.

The Dónde Hay only includes a map so that the user knows the market’s address, but it does not include a phone number so the user can call and confirm if the product is still for sale. So the busy pharmacist had to look for a telephone directory, write the number with a pen on the palm of her hand and start calling to inquire about the breasts.

Then she ran into the second obstacle. No one answered the phone in the Ultra store, a very common practice in shops and state offices. So, afraid that if she continued to delay the store would run out, she decided – under the burning July sun – to head over to the store. In her hand, like a talisman, her mobile phone kept assuring her that there were at least 70 packages of that chicken part on offer.

But Magdalena failed to notice something important. The date of the update of the information she had read was one day earlier, a characteristic of the Dónde Hay app. The database can have a delay of up to 72 hours caused by the time between the supply of information by store managers and the processing of the data, until it finally reaches the customer.

As Magdalena searched the empty refrigerators, all she got from the clerk, when she asked her why there was no chicken breasts after the app on her cellphone said there were tons, was a roar of laughter and the phrase, “but you didn’t believe that, did you?”

That morning, the beleaguered pharmacist completely lost her confidence in technology and a bit later she deleted Donde Hay, because she prefers to “walk all over Havana” searching with her own eyes versus being guided “by a lie.”

Other unfortunate users have experienced similar situations. Products that appear as if they are for sale but when the customer gets to the store they are informed that “it ran out” and was “taken off the list” or that they sold out in less than 24 hours, like a small kiosk on a little-traveled street that sold 90 bottles of mayonnaise.

Compañero, we haven’t had acrylic paint here for years,” snapped a salesclerk to the disappointed customer who had seen on Donde Hay that exactly what he needed to finish touching up his window grille was for sale just a few blocks from his house. “None of that is true,” insisted the employee who was stacking the empty boxes behind the counter.

“You believe this chaos can be inventoried, huh?” was the last thing the customer heard before turning his back, pausing for a few seconds in the shade, and typing the word “paint” again and mentally noting the next address where it might be for sale. It was like one of those cellphone games, in the new location he could expect the reward of finding the desired enamel or the frustration of “no hay” (there isn’t any).

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.;

The Cuba of Humboldt and Ruiz Urquiola

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola believes that the authorities want to seize his family’s farm. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 5 July 2018 — At the entrance to Humboldt University in Berlin, an inscription in Spanish says that the statue of the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt that stands there was a gift from the University of Havana, in homage to the man who has been called “the second discoverer” of Cuba. Cuban biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola repeatedly passed that statue with its serene face during his time at that institution of higher learning.

In recent days the name of this young researcher, 43, has graced the covers of numerous international media, for having maintained a hunger strike for more than two weeks. With that strict fast, Ruiz Urquiola demanded his release after being sentenced to one year in prison for the alleged offense of “contempt,” in a flawed case plagued by irregularities. Thus, the scientist put his life at risk to demand freedom, using his own body as a lever of complaint against what he considered an injustice. continue reading

On Tuesday, the Cuban authorities yielded in their stubbornness and released Ruiz Urquiola. For health reasons he was granted a parole which does not totally annul his sentence, but it does permit him to return to his home and to the agro-ecological project he manages in Viñales. Although his tenacity allowed him to win this battle, he knows that the eyes of the ruling party will be watching for any false step in hopes of making him shoulder “the blame” for his public demands, putting the Government on the spot and, above all, denouncing the ecological damage that it commits in that protected area of ​​the Cuban West.

If Alexander von Humboldt lived during a time of discoveries and explorations, Ruiz Urquiola is living during a hard time of complicity on this Island. The German explorer helped to expand knowledge of the geography, flora, fauna and even the topography of a country that he himself barely knew, but more than two centuries later the Cuban scientific community is trapped between a lack of resources and excessive state control. Researchers are now evaluated based not only on their abilities and the results of their projects, but most importantly on their ideological fidelity.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that during all the days the biologist refused to eat, there were no pronouncements of solidarity, nor even a call to review his case, on the part of functionaries, educators and staff of Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. Nor did any official entity linked to agricultural production, the care of the ecosystem or the study of fauna raise a single voice to demand justice for Ruiz Urquiola.

The official media never mentioned the case, although social networks lit up with messages that demanded his prompt release and his face was a constant presence on the alternative information networks that cross the country. Meanwhile, in contrast to the silence of the national scientific community, colleagues from other parts of the world put their names to the #FreeAriel movement.

More than 200 years ago Humboldt came across a country to explore, study and report on, now Ruiz Urquiola inhabits a nation where researchers are wary of every word and prefer silence.

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This text was originally published on Deustche Welle’s Latin America page.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Who’s Watching toDus?

The latest app developed on the island has been baptized toDus and is presented as a Cuban WhatsApp.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 2 July 2018 — While Cubans are counting the days until internet service is available for mobile phones, the saga of offline tools is writing a new chapter. The latest app developed on the island has been baptized ‘toDus’ and is presented as a Cuban WhatsApp.

The free messaging application, available in a version for Android, can be downloaded from the first made-in-Cuba apps store Apklis, where it shares space with tools designed, for example, to find products in the shortage-plagued markets of the island, or a video biography of Ernesto Guevara, among others.

ToDus, created by the University of Computer Science (UCI) in collaboration with the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa, is one example of a trend that official entities have promoted with little success among the users of the Island: the creation of rivals as substitutes for apps from popular American companies that have spread around the world such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Wikipedia. continue reading

Despite the high prices to browse the web and the small number of households with connections, Internet users on the island seem to prefer universal tools and have become accustomed to the same social networks that can be used by someone in Berlin, Montevideo or New York, so for many the choice to use a national impersonation is not convincing.

In a country with a high level of emigration, interaction in chats, forums and social networks on internationally available apps is vital for everything from getting a visa to receiving remittances. In the five-year period between 2012 and 2017, Facebook accounted for 87.17% of web traffic from Cuba on social networks, followed by Twitter with 8% and Pinterest with 3%, according to data from the measurement and analysis tool StatCounter Global Stats.

In this context, the greatest and almost unique attractions of a national chat variant lies in its free nature and its offline operation. The first will be a factor in its lifespan, given the precarious wages earned by Cubans, but the second could be about to change if Etecsa sells data packages that allow the use of WhatsApp or Telegram.

The most significant reason for choosing foreign variants is the security and privacy of conversations. Although UCI’s director of networks, Tadier Perdomo, said that all messages “travel encrypted and are not stored on the servers,” but only on the devices of the sender and receiver, users don’t know what “other eyes” are observing the content.

Although UCI’s director of networks, Tadier Perdomo, said that all messages “travel encrypted and are not stored on the servers,” but only on the devices of the sender and receiver, users don’t know what “other eyes” are observing the content.

The “Terms and conditions of use” specify that the user should not “make comments that are offensive or contrary to morality, as well as those that denigrate or offend the government or government policies.” The warning refers directly to political issues frequently blocked by Etecsa, which filters even text-only messages (SMS) with the words “dictatorship” or “democracy.”

In order to use all the features of toDus, the customer must accept that the tool has access to the photos, videos, multimedia content and general files on their device. However, when that premise is accepted, it is clear that the official program, created and promoted by the Government, has access to everything on the phone.

Just as the great giants of technology, such as Facebook or Google, have been questioned about the use they make of their clients’ personal data, toDus is vulnerable to the same problems. In the Cuban case, the information would go to the authorities instead of to companies who intend to use it to generate financial returns.

So far it is unknown if a message sent through toDus can be used as evidence in court or shown in the national media, as has often been the case with the private correspondence of activists and opponents. The consequences to a user who openly criticizes the president of the country or an institution through the service are also unknown.

Clarifying these questions and defining the limits of the privacy of this new tool would go a long way towards allaying the fears and mistrust it is already generating. In some Havana neighborhoods, with a heavy does of irony, the application has already been baptized “the ‘cederista’ chat,” a reference to the national Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) blockwatch committees that maintain files on and inform on all citizens with a focus on “counterrevolutionary activity.”

Despite the suspicions surrounding toDus, the tool has been downloaded almost 200,000 times since it was announced on June 20. A fact that is less surprising given that the students and workers of the University of Computer Science and the state-managed Young Computer Club have been given “the task” of swelling the numbers of customers, as 14ymedio was able to confirm.

Beyond the headlines in the international press, which reports that the “Cuban WhatsApp” is causing a furor on the island, toDus faces the test of time.

In its beta version, there is still much about the app that needs to be improved, including the delay, often excessive, the SMS registration, unforeseen crashes that end with the tool closing, messages that are sent but never reach their recipients, and the fact that it is still not possible to make voice or video calls. All issues that technically undermine the app’s performance.

However, the hardest battle to fight against is the preferences of Cubans themselves. These tend to point the internauts’ compasses towards services accessible world-wide, which make them feel part of the great global village and a little bit safe from the strict eyes of State Security.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Unfinished Tasks of Pope Francis

Pope Francis assumed the throne of Saint Peter with the aura of renewal. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 July 2018 — The scandal has transcended Chile and reached the doors of the Vatican itself. The earthquake provoked by accusations of sexual abuse and cover-ups against several Chilean priests has also challenged Pope Francis, who accepted the resignation of five Chilean bishops but is aware that the problem extends throughout the world’s Catholic Church.

Among the prelates and seminarians themselves, opinions on how to solve the current crisis remain divided and polarized. While some see the denunciations as an attack to the Christian faith and an attack against the ecclesiastical institution, others urge the implementation of important changes that would diminish the incidence of these scourges. Placed above this mountain of criticism, the Pope seems like a figure made of paper at the mercy of the storm. continue reading

The man who became the Bishop of Rome surrounded by an aura of renewal, has been able to do little to introduce real changes in the temples and convents that would contribute to modernizing the Church, opening it to a changing world where “the rule of law” must govern everyone, without complicities or silences. Francis has failed the victims of these abuses by not fostering the transformations necessary to prevent them from continuing to happen.

The discussion on the subject has special connotations in Latin America, since this region has more than 425 million Catholics, a figure that represents almost 40% of the Catholic faithful on the planet. The debate has been ignited even in countries such as Cuba where scandals of clerical abuse have not yet reached the front pages of the papers, due to the prudish secrecy of the official press and the fear of those affected.

Sotto voce, in Cuban corridors and sacristies, the news about the events in Chile inflames discussions. Few can escape taking sides given what happened.

“Eliminate the obligation of celibacy,” a young Cuban who studied at a seminar on the island proposes without blinking. “The ordination of women, greater transparency in the management of resources, the democratization of the communities and even the acceptance of homosexual marriage,” round out the demands of this potential priest who finally hung up his habit without seeing his dreams materialize.

“These scandals will pass because the Church is millenarian and has withstood worse attacks, we are going to weather the storm and continue,” says the elderly priest of a Havana parish. “We can not all be evaluated by the actions of some and celibacy must remain intact because it is something that distinguishes us and reinforces our chastity,” he adds.

Between the weathered priest and the young ex-seminarian is an abyss carved out by their differences. Both share religious faith but there is a vast difference in their beliefs about how the institution to which they belong should function. Both are Catholics, but while one clings to the traditions and the old ways, the other inhabits the church of the future, the one that Pope Francis has not managed to promote.

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Note: This column  was originally published in the Latin American edition of Deutsche Welle.

We, The Guilty

Fidel Castro spent a week in Nicaragua for the celebration of the first anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution. In the image, a celebration on July 19, 1980 marking the first anniversary of the fall of Somoza. (La Prensa / Archive)

14ymedio biggerIt was the 80s and, from Cuba, Nicaragua seemed to offer hope that the leftist revolutions would take power across the continent. The fall of the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza fit into the pieces of my children’s puzzle, where the walls of the Kremlin, Fidel Castro’s beard and Nicaragua’s volcanoes shared space.

A classmate in my third grade class bragged that her father was in Managua as a military advisor. These trips, in addition to guaranteeing the importing of exotic gifts in the midst of the boring distributions from the rationed market, increased social prestige because they immediately conveyed the status of “proletarian internationalist.”

Years later, when that fog of slogans and chimeras cleared, I understood that this official euphemism hid a much more heinous reality: military intervention in another nation. The chess of geopolitics had turned Nicaragua into a board where Moscow moved its pieces through Cuban hands and the United States did the same through the “Contras.” continue reading

Along with that physical presence and the ascendancy that the Plaza of the Revolution maintained over the Sandinista commanders, the main offensive was developed in the media and in whatever cultural display served to convey the idea that the sickle with its implacable hammer had destroyed the old Latin American regimes.

This is how documentaries, posters, hymns and poetic riffs were created, which were mandatory in Cuban schools and, above all, a mold was created from which it was impossible to escape. Being a Sandinista and supporting Daniel Ortega, who led this revolution then occupying the most space in the Island’s official discourse, was a necessary catechism to be able to be “ordained” as a full-fledged revolutionary and communist.

Castro supported the Sandinistas with strategists and arms, as he did so many other guerrilla movements in the region. Testimonies and documents that have come to light confirm that the Cuban leader maintained a fluid communication during the insurrection directed from its Palo Alto headquarters in Costa Rica, because he always liked to play war from a distance, with the bullets wounding other bodies.

After reaching power, the Sandinista commanders visited Havana and the president talked with them during a more than 70 hour marathon from which at least two counsels have come to light. He recommended that they call elections as soon as possible and not introduce compulsory military service. The stubborn comrades paid no attention, perhaps because they realized that the “counselor-in-chief” had not followed any of these premises and, nevertheless, continued to control the Island.

After that alliance, Cuban children had other commanders to worship, another revolution to shout Viva! for, and a new geography to explore on the maps, as we thought about the day we would disembark there with our boots, compass and rifles, to kill or die in the name of utopia. Our own island was narrow and when that time came we would be able to project a continental Cuba, making the leap from our caiman to that cinched waist offering the promise of continued advances towards the voluptuousness of the two Americas.

While that moment of physical sacrifice was still over the horizon, we applauded. We sang praises to Ortega and his companions even when the confiscations they imposed spoke more of voracity than justice, when the nationalizations ruined the country, and when their hands did not tremble as they pointed their rifles against their own people. An ideological friendship at that time involved this kind of selective myopia.

The official Cuban media also continued to present the Sandinistas as rebellious youngsters, even in moments of absolute international disrepute, such as the one provoked by the so-called Sandinista “piñata” in which they scandalously distributed property and goods among themselves and lined their own pockets. Although some of the Sandinista commanders turned away from the insatiable Ortega, Cuban propaganda continued to present them as “the Nicaraguan guerrillas,” a tight group, a closed bloc.

Cuba’s official newspaper Granma never dedicated a critical phrase to them and Silvio Rodríguez continued to sing that “another hot iron” had been broken in Nicaragua. A theme that served to spread, from passion, a lie. The Sandinista revolution, like the Cuban one, erected from its emergence an insatiable source of rights for its followers, even above the law, shielding itself from its critics and forgetting that foundational impulse of change that had made it possible. It aged badly and fast.

After almost 40 years, the young man who initially conquered power by the force of arms is now trying to keep it through them, amid the popular protests that broke out in Nicaraguan streets in April. Ortega has ordered his forces to kill and will continue to do so to keep the presidential chair. Lacking the revolutionary mysticism that once surrounded him, he is now left with only repression or claudication.

Aggravating his international loneliness, his former ally and mentor has been dead almost two years and Havana no longer enjoys those fat subsidies of yesteryear that allowed it to deploy troops in other countries. But the official media is a redoubt of support for the Ortega regime and occasionally, on some old radio station, you will hear about the “rope with bait” that was cut in Nicaragua.

Today most Cubans, partly guilty for that mirage turned into satrapy, are silent, look the other way or dream of reaching other geographies, this time not to extend a utopia, but to escape it.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

‘The Mechanism’: A Series That Will Not Be Seen On Cuban State Television

The fictional series, based on real events, revolves around the investigation that uncovered the fraudulent network woven around the semi-state oil company Petrobras in Brazil. (The Mechanism)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 20 June 2018 — When people talk about Brazilian TV shows, some think of the dramatic soap operas that Cuban media broadcasts every year. Those soap operas, full of intrigues, loves and hatreds, have been part of the island’s television network for decades, but The Mechanism, a production that addresses the corruption revealed by Operation Car Wash, will not suffer the same fate.

For a couple of weeks now, the series, directed by the filmmaker José Padilha and produced by Netflix, has landed in Cuba through the informal content distribution networks such as the weekly packet. With a dynamic plot and excellent performances, The Mechanism premiered on Netflix last March and since then has not stopped stirring passions. continue reading

The fictional series, based on real events, revolves around the investigation that uncovered the fraudulent network woven around the semi-state oil company Petrobras in Brazil. These investigations led to the discovery of the tentacles of bribes, money laundering and payments to politicians extended by the construction company Odebrecht for decades throughout the region.

Padilha, who had already made a name for himself with Narcos, structured his series based on a book by journalist Vladimir Netto and managed to build a gradual sense of disgust in his audience. The repulsion grows as the names of those involved appear, and the bribery strategies and the depth of these practices in the political and economic life of Brazil come to light.

Due to the little that has been reported in the national media, Cuban viewers are probably tempted to read the story as a documentary, although it is essential to take into account the warning message that appears at the beginning of each episode: “This program is a work of fiction freely inspired by real events, characters, situations and other elements, adapted for dramatic effect.”

However, along with the creative freedom that has led Padilha to change or recreate real events, The Mechanism maintains the authentic edges of Operation Car Wash, which have not been reported in Cuba, hence its dual character as entertainment and revelation. Unlike other countries where the scandal filled extensive headlines, on the island this will be the first details many people see about the many dimensions of that rot.

The case, which shook the whole continent and reached as far as Angola and Mozambique, is of particular interest in Cuba, where Fidel and Raúl Castro maintained close relations with two of the characters in this truculent story: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who appear in the series with changed names but easily identifiable.

In the same years that Odebrecht bought contracts, supported election campaigns in Latin America and distributed millions to fend off any investigation against it, the Cuban authorities embraced, smiling and complicit, the two politicians who were up to their eyeballs in such corruption.

No wonder, the construction company Odebrecht was hand-picked for the modernization of Cuba’s Port of Mariel. The megaproject, a kind of white elephant Raul Castro’s regime used to try to attract investors, was inaugurated in January 2014 by Dilma Rousseff and the Cuban president. They posed smiling in front of the cameras of the foreign press just a a few weeks before the scandal would shake the Brazilian president.

Since then, Cuba’s official press has mostly reported the upheavals caused by the revelations of Operation Car Wash to the region’s centrist and rightist governments. That information strategy prioritized the details of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation as president of Peru, and the international arrest order against former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, also accused of receiving bribes from Odebrecht.

In contrast, Cuba’s national media hardly mentions the sentencing of Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas to six years in prison for the same reasons, and has totally ignored all the evidence that points to Nicolás Maduro as part of the machinations of that powerful construction company. The links to current Brazilian president Michel Temer, who assumed office after Rousseff’s impeachment, were reported in the pages of Granma, like those of Lula and Rousseff, except that in the case of these last two, it was reported as a “conspiracy of the right.”

As expected, both Brazilian former presidents are among the staunchest critics of the series since it was launched on Netflix. Lula has insisted that the “piece is one more lie” and Rousseff accused it of “distorting reality” and spreading all kinds of lies.

Beyond the welts that it raises, the arrival in Cuba of The Mechanism helps to break the mantle of silence that the Plaza of the Revolution has thrown over parts of this history, and it will set people talking about the subject and raise desires for a greater investigation of the true details.

The series is also a great opportunity to enjoy solid performances, such as those of Selton Melo who plays investigator Marco Ruffo, a researcher obsessed with the case and whose childhood friend, called Roberto Ibrahim in the series but taken from the real life Alberto Youseff, is one of the money launderers whose arrest uncovers the scandal.

The manager of the construction company, Marcelo Odebrecht (in the series presented as Ricardo Brecht), manages to transmit that calculated coldness of someone who knows that he has presidents and senators from all over the continent in his pocket, while the character of Verena Cardoni, played by Caroline Abras, stands apart from the female stereotypes that abound in Brazilian soap operas.

This, unlike those soap operas of unrequited love and exalted hatred, is not a production to get you to mourn for a couple separated in the past or for an unrecognized son, but for the rottenness of a country. What happens on the screen is not history, but absolute fiction, but one based on the uncovering of a crooked network of corruption that extends its threads to this Island.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Nicaragua on Edge

Students at the barricades in Managua. 12 June 2018.

Yoani Sanchez, The Voice of Your Rights, Havana, 14 June 2018 — With the roads cut off, the universities turned into barricades or makeshift infirmaries, and a figure of 146 people who have lost their lives in the protests that broke out last April, Nicaragua today is a nation awaiting a decision that must be taken by a single man. Daniel Ortega has in his hands the ability to allow the country to resume the democratic path or to sink into a spiral of violence and death.

The Nicaraguan Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which brings together broad sectors, has called a national strike for next Thursday with the aim of demanding an end to the “repression.” Another of the objectives of this call is to demand the resumption of a dialogue that would allow ending the socio-political crisis in the country. continue reading

The strike is one more among the many signs Ortega has received in recent weeks of Nicaraguans’ rejection of the government formed by him and his wife, vice president Rosario Murillo. However, the former Sandinista guerrilla believes he is the only man capable of leading the Central American country towards a bright future that only exists in his delusions. He considers himself a kind of irreplaceable anointed.

From his Latin American allies and mentors, in the style of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, Ortega learned to hold on to power no matter at what cost. The presidential chair for him is not only a post from which he controls every detail of national life, but also a fortress that protects him from the law. As long as he stays inside the palace he will be safe, he thinks. A mistake made by many of the operetta caudillos who have ruled in Latin America.

Retaining the highest office in the country and not agreeing in time to resign may be the worst of the decisions that Daniel Ortega has made throughout his long political life. The protests have touched an emotional fiber in millions of Nicaraguans, especially among the youngest. Many of them, turned into improvised street fighters, intuit that there is no turning back and that allowing the continuity of ‘Orteguismo’ will result in a prison sentence or death.

That revolutionary fervor Sandinismo once counted on and the social mysticism that elevated it to power is now in the hands of its adversaries. Ortega does not have the support born of ideological passion nor does the enthusiasm of yesteryear animate the people. That connection was broken irremediably and the repression that he has unleashed against the demonstrators has ended by crumbling the little ascendency that was left to Nicaraguans.

Every hour that passes, every second that the caudillo does not negotiate his exit from the presidency, brings him closer to a more violent end.

In Managua, a man addicted to power takes refuge in his stubbornness without being willing to recognize that if he chooses to give up power and retire, when it is still possible, he would save countless lives, including his own.

Originally published in Deutsche Welle

 

Renewal of Vows: The Red Scarf

Cuban schoolchildren during the ceremony where they take on the red scarf. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 14 June 2018 –Three decades later, the woman is facing a familiar scene. A row of children dressed in their elementary school uniforms receive the new red scarf that replaces the blue one they had previously knotted around their necks. Like a déjà vu, she listens to her daughter repeat the same slogan she shouted out in her own childhood. The little girl, one knee on the ground, swears to follow the example of Ernesto Che Guevara, just like her mother had promised to do so long ago.

The school’s morning assembly started early this Thursday, June 14, the day chosen for the initiation of students who completed the third grade. They now become part of the José Martí Pioneers Organization and have started down a path where ideological excesses and political manipulation will follow them forever. The ceremony has all the traces of a religious initiation, almost mystical, despite of its being centered on an atheist guerrilla, who this very day would have turned 90. continue reading

To conclude the moment, the loudspeakers broadcast a song dedicated to Fidel Castro at full volume. “Louder, Louder!” the school principal shouts to the students, who must sing the boring tune verse by verse. “Louder, louder to be heard up there!,” he reiterates as he points to the sky, where, he believes, his Commander-in-Chief must have gone.

The music is over, the children shout the slogan that they will repeat in the coming years: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che.” Then they leave the ranks and return to the unruly games of any child. The political “renewal of vows” is over.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Fear of Losing Political Control Explains Cuba’s Technological Backwardness

Video: Cuba’s Minister of Communications talking about the implementation of cellular internet. (Not subtitled)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 13 June 2018 — Facing a mountain of medical records the nurse looks for the patient’s history. She flips through the pages, pulls out the folders, but the clinical report does not appear. “It’ll have to be done again,” she tells the disgruntled gentleman who, that very morning, had read in the official press about the “advances in computerization” in Cuba’s Public Health system.

The VI Latin American Telecommunications Congress, held in Varadero, is serving these days as a launch pad for triumphant headlines in the official press. Those who pay attention only to the reports emerging from this technology congress may come to believe that, on the island, many procedures are accessibly by a click, but the reality is very different. continue reading

A country where the vast majority of people have never completed an online financial transaction, never been able to buy a product from a virtual store, and do not know the enormous potential of distance courses that would allow them to learn from home, cannot be categorized as a computerized nation.

To this we add the poverty level wages that prevent many professionals from signing up on international online resource sites related to their fields, where they could keep abreast of the latest trends. Paying a day’s salary to connect for one hour in a public wifi zone is not an indicator of a connected society, but rather an indicator of the economic penalty that weighs on Cuban internet users.

On the one hand, the Deputy Minister of Education, Rolando Forneiro Rodríguez, stood in front of congress delegates painting an optimistic scenario with a large number of teachers for the subject of Computer Science. However, on the other hand, in countless schools in the country students’ so-called ‘machine time’ comes with an absence of teachers and the deterioration of infrastructure.

Children under the age of ten learn more about technology by exchanging video clips through mobile apps such as Zapya than they do attending boring computer classes where ideology is intertwined with HTML code and the computer programs offered on the official list have more to do with politics than with fun.

For more than two decades, the teaching of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has also suffered from the Government’s attempts to create a “corralito” – a little corral – of filtered content. Those intentions are responsible for sites such as Ecured, a poor imitation of Wikipedia; the unpopular Mochila (Backpack) created to compete with the weekly packet and the failed Tendedera (Clothesline) born to wipe away Facebook.

At a time when the internet is strengthening its role as an environment for activism and a place for debate on issues as hot as the contradictions of democracy, racism or gender violence, Cuban authorities are still trying to domesticate the network and lock the Island’s users into their little guarded plot.

In hospitals and polyclinics the picture is similar. The bulky bureaucracy of the Public Health system still works with paper. The loss of a single sheet can mean months of delay in a treatment and medical appointments, most of the time, are first come first served, to the discomfort of the sick and their relatives.

In the classrooms of the faculties of medicine, the blackboard, the chalks and the plastic models of the human body have not given way to other technologies that might  make the Island’s doctors modern professionals. Saving lives, today, can also happen due to the dominance of devices such as mobile phones or the ability to search for information in the great world wide web.

The fear of the social impact of connectivity and the loss of political control that would be implied by access to other news channels has been the real brake on Cubans’ ability to disembark in the 21st century, an era characterized precisely by social networks, digital content consumption and connectivity.

This fear of the ruling party has a cost not only in national economic development but also in quality of life and education. We don’t have to wait to see result of that delay because it is already visible in each classroom and during each consultation.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Pollution Without Punishment

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 7 June 2018 — The activists arrive in the woodlands to sink their hands in the oil spilled over the forest, thousands of miles from a hot air balloon displaying a banner denouncing CO2 emissions near a crude oil extraction platform where a group is protesting. Actions of this kind are barely seen in Cuba and it is not because the environment is respected.

Last week the people of Cienfuegos woke to the news of an oil spill in their bay. The heavy rains from subtropical storm Albert caused the pools of the nearby refinery waste treatment plant to overflow, spilling more than 3 million gallons of water mixed with crude oil into the bay. The official news programs made haste to minimize the damage and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma) kept a complicit silence. continue reading

No environmental group showed up with posters to stand outside the refinery, not a single chemical engineer raised their voice in the national media to warn of the danger to human health, nor were the voices of marine biologists heard detailing the negative effects on local wildlife. The official version prevailed and on television we saw a group of smiling workers cleaning the stains off the tourist boats.

The mistakes made by the authorities at the Cienfuegos refinery were not analyzed and no official journalist questioned the entity about the bad management practices over their waste that led to an ecological disaster. As in many known cases, the lack of independence of the judiciary, the press and social organizations allowed impunity to surround an event that deserved huge headlines, fines and a public commitment that such things will not happen again.

With the same state approval and “protection,” hydrocarbons are poured into the sewers from vehicle repair shops, the polyclinics throw medical waste into neighborhood dumpsters, and several companies continue to drain their dangerous miasmas into the rivers, just like the sad case of the Almendares River in Havana.

The State does not punish itself for these excesses and the lack of freedom prevents civil society from expressing itself in a clear and public manner. Despite small environmental groups that collect litter along the coastline and digital sites that promote a culture of respect for nature, Cuba lacks an environmental movement that can bring pressure, there is no seat in parliament from which to raise a complaint, nor is there the ability to demonstrate in the streets to defend our natural heritage.

In the absence of these voices, the island’s ecosystem is at the mercy of negligence, outrages and silence.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Country Narrated By Its People

Image of the incident recorded by one of the first residents of the area who ran to help the victims of Cubana de Aviacion flight DMJ-972 in Havana. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 29 May 2018 — In recent days the images of two unfortunate events have jumped from one mobile phone to another across the country. First were the videos of the Cubana de Aviacion crash on May 18 and then the films of the floods in the center of the island. In both the tragedy and in the emergency the citizen information channels have been faster and more effective than the official media.

The press controlled by the Communist Party has been seen to act clumsily, compared to the rapid and viral news transmission Cubans have achieved on their own, thanks to new technologies. Even Granma’s “minute-by-minute” updates on its digital site suffer from the delays cause by having to wait for authorizations about what events can be talked about and how they must be addressed. continue reading

The nationally circulating newspapers distributed in the network of government-run kiosks have silenced all the statements from pilots, flight attendants and experts who point out the technical problems and penalties that have characterized the Mexican company Global Air in recent years. Cubans have learned about these circumstances entirely through alternative networks.

In a Havana high school in the Plaza of the Revolution municipality, the teenagers have exchanged at least a dozen videos about the air disaster, including interviews with a former employee of the firm who denounced the technical problems of its planes. To silence the existence of these testimonies in the news only increases the distance between official journalism and reality.

While the television broadcasts, over and over, the face of president Miguel Diaz-Canel in the place where the Boeing 737 fell out of the sky, videos circulating in the streets show not only the first neighbors who arrived to help the survivors, but also the vandals who tried to take wallets, cellphones and money from the wreckage of the plane. Thanks to these images filmed by amateurs, the ineptitude of the rescue team has also become known.

In the recent days of heavy rains it is also the cellphones and cameras of ordinary people that have allowed us to see the collapse of the bridges over the Zaza and Sancti Spiritus rivers, and the dramatic situation of families with their flooded houses or lost harvests.

National television, on the other hand, has chosen to give more space to the visits of the officials inspecting the state of the tobacco in Pinar del Rio and the boring meetings of party cadres dressed in olive-green who insist that everything is “safeguarded.”

Meanwhile, Civil Defense didn’t bother to release information, an alert or an alarm for the affected territories, but the residents of the sites with the most damage advised their families and people living in nearby villages about the advance of the waters from a dam or the increase in the flow of a river. Not only has the news travelled from one cellphone to another, but the warnings and proofs of life have as well.

One can imagine this same scenario under the absolute information control of the government. Would the antecedents of an accident or the magnitude of a natural disaster come to light if Cubans didn’t have their own sources to learn about them? The experience from the years when the official press completely dominated the scene tell us that the answer is no.

The dangers of this new scenario, however, are also many. Apocryphal images, falsified videos and photos attributed to one moment that actually belong to another, also abound in this avalanche of content that has been unleashed on the island. Even the official sites have republished some of these hoaxes as authentic.

However, beyond the risk of ‘fake news’ and the morbid reproduction of some of these images, the final balance is much more positive than alarming: Cubans are informed now they have their own narrative of the country and have left, far in the past, that informational innocence that served such nefarious purposes. news

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

We Ask For Transparency in Investigation of Tragic Plane Crash

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 May 2018 – The tragic images are hypnotic. Across a swath of agricultural land near Havana’s José Martí International Airport are scattered the remains of what, a few minutes earlier, was an airplane filled with 110 people traveling from the Cuban capital to the eastern province of Holguin. Only three passengers have been rescued and Cuba is facing the worst air crash in recent years.

The plunge of this Boeing 737-200 comes at the worst moment for the island. The diplomatic thaw with Washington has been halted for months and the 7% drop in the number of tourists over the first quarter of this year complicates the economic situation. A disaster of this magnitude can seriously affect an economic sector that enables the government to deposit hard currency in the dwindling national treasury. continue reading

The serious economic situation that affects Cuba’s ally Venezuela also intensifies this picture. Hopefully, in the coming weeks the Cuban authorities will open our territory to an international investigation because the victims include citizens of Mexico and Argentina. The secrecy that traditionally surrounds these types of investigations within our borders will be put to the test before the demands for information that will come from abroad.

To further complicate the moment, the official media just announced that Raul Castro, who remains at the head of the Communist Party, has undergone surgery and his successor in the position of president, engineer Miguel Diaz-Canel, is facing the most delicate moment of his mandate. This Friday he was seen arriving at the crash site, visibly alarmed, perhaps calculating the political costs the accident will have for his management.

However, the fundamental blow goes to the heart of the Cuban people and especially the family members of the hundred Cubans aboard that fateful flight that crashed at 12:08 pm on May 18. For them, there is the long pain of loss, the rigors of the identification of the bodies and the intense political campaign with which the ruling party will surround every step taken by medical and police institutions in the search for answers.

In their minds, the last moments with their loved ones will surface again and again, along with the sequence of coincidences that brought them to the aircraft leased by the state airline to the Mexican company Global Air. The stories of those who at the last minute could not obtain a ticket to travel and those who, on the contrary, were not planning to take that flight but by chance ended up on the list of fatal victims will emerge.

Doubts and questions will also arise, with demands for clear explanations in a country where the authorities have decades of training in doling out each piece of information. But not even this ability to remain silent will prevent people from relating the news of recent months and feeling that this Friday’s news has all the traces of a predictable tragedy.

The state airline, Cubana de Aviación, has been plunged for years into a profound crisis of constant flight cancellations due to the poor state of its fleet, consisting mainly of Russian airplanes with long years in service. The deterioration of their planes has forced the island’s main airline to continuously lease aircraft from other companies, and reduced their stature to almost nothing among their Cuban passengers.

The next few days are crucial. The reaction of the families will depend to a large extent on how the authorities and the airline manage the information about what happened. Transparency is now the most recommended approach but it remains to be seen if the Cuban government is going to choose it.

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Note: This column was originally published in the Latin American edition of the Deutsche Welle chain.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.